Shingles pain, which results from a viral infection in the roots of the nerves, is known to affect approximately one million persons in the United States every year. Although most people can recover from pain after shingles, as high as fifty percent of people who are over the age of 60, perpetually suffer if not treated.
The question, ‘How long does shingles pain last?’ has no definite answer. For some patients, the pain can last for a few months, while for the others, it can continue for years, as well as for an entire lifetime.
The shingles virus
Certain patients suffering from shingles pain actually have postherpetic neuralgia, commonly known as PHN. It is the consequence of damage caused to the nerves in the skin by the shingles virus. In certain instances, the pain is known to be milder. However, in certain other cases, even the lightest touch, from a breeze to even clothing, can be extremely painful.
Postherpetic neuralgia causes a lot of suffering at increased social costs because it can actually hamper the lives of the patients. Nevertheless, the good fact is that certain drugs are available, which can help in treating pain after shingles. Some medicines also help prevent postherpetic neuralgia. Research is still ongoing in the medical world as to who is at the highest risk of contracting this health condition.
The cause of shingles pain
The Varicella Zoster virus is known to cause shingles pain. This is the virus which also causes chickenpox. In an individual who was exposed to chickenpox at some point in life or even its vaccine, this virus actually never leaves the body. It tends to lie in a dormant manner in the nerves of the body.
In the majority of cases, the virus stays in that manner. However, in some cases, particularly in people whose immune systems were weakened by treatments or diseases, this virus tends to reappear. This phenomenon is most likely to occur many years after the person had suffered from chickenpox.
Symptoms of shingles
When the virus comes back, it tends to cause shingles, which are rashes that appear in the form of a band on one side of the person’s body. The early symptoms of shingles may include:
- Light sensitivity
- Symptoms similar to those of flu
- Extreme pain, tingling, and itching (where the rash tends to develop)
The risk factors
Medical researchers have known since a long time that more aged people are likely to get the pain after shingles. The PHN causes such nerve pains. However, the results of recent studies suggest that certain other factors may actually increase the risks of shingles pain.
In a study, which was published in a journal, experienced researchers, carefully examined data involving nine hundred and sixty-five people suffering from shingles. These researchers pointed out five major factors of risk, concerning PHN development in individuals suffering from shingles:
- Female individuals
- Symptoms which show before the rashes appear, such as tingling, numbness, itching, and pain
- Extreme pain in the initial stages of the illness
- Rashes which are severe in nature
Most importantly, medical researchers have found that the more number of risk factors a person has, the higher is the risk of getting PHN. For example, 17 percent of women suffering from shingles and 26 percent of people who suffered from extreme pain, later developed PHN. 50 percent women above the age of sixty, who had the symptoms before getting the rash, later developed PHN.
Preventing pain from shingles
There are various medications which can significantly reduce your risks of developing the health condition. There exist three primary anti-viral medicines, i.e. Valacyclovir or Valtrex, Famciclovir or Famvir, and Acyclovir or Zovirax. These medications have to be first taken within 2 or 3 days from the onset of the symptoms of shingles.
Clinical trials concerning these drugs in individuals above 50 years of age suggest that these drugs reduce the rates of shingles pain to half in six months. This is a very important improvement. The medicines are known to be safe, with little to no side effects.
Get treatment without delay
If you suffer from shingles pain, it is very important that you consult your doctor about the risks of getting PHN. Your doctor might prescribe a preventative treatment comprising of certain antiviral medications.
Treatment for shingles pain may vary depending upon various health factors. Doctors tend to prescribe different treatments for patients of varying ages, with varying health conditions. Whether you are allergic to certain triggers is also considered. As soon as you start experiencing any of the symptoms of shingles, you should set up a consultation and diagnosis session with the doctor.